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Published 26.11.18

New study shows "Generation Internet" between happiness and dependence

Deutsches Institut für Vertrauen und Sicherheit im Internet (DIVSI), German Institute for Trust and Security on the Internet, Deutsches Institut für Vertrauen und Sicherheit im Internet (DIVSI)

The Internet is both a curse and a blessing for young people and young adults. Although they mainly associate opportunities with the Internet, they also increasingly see risks - such as personal attacks, misinformation, increasing complexity and a lack of technical understanding. Group pressure and excessive demands create additional discomfort. This clearly demonstrates a fundamental change in the use and perception of social media: the hype is over - skepticism is on the rise.

This is the conclusion of the representative U25 study presented by the German Institute for Trust and Security on the Internet (DIVSI) together with Federal Family Minister Dr. Franziska Giffey at the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin.

For the vast majority of respondents, digital infrastructures and services are essential because they greatly facilitate access to information, speed up previously cumbersome processes and inspire new ones. 68 percent can no longer imagine life without the Internet (2014: 73 percent). From the point of view of young people, the Internet is above all one thing: practical; 69 percent even say that it makes them happy.

However, only 30 percent of the younger generation still believe in the security of personal data on the Internet. Dr. Silke Borgstedt, Director of Social Research and Head of Studies at the SINUS Institute: "The comparison with the study results from 2014 shows that young people today perceive significantly more risks when using the Internet than they did four years ago.

In addition, many young people notice a strong "brutalization" of the ways of dealing with people in the net and behave accordingly cautiously and reservedly. Two thirds of 14- to 24-year-olds perceive the Internet as a space in which those who express themselves can expect to be insulted or insulted. For 38 percent, this perceived "insult culture" is a reason not to express their own opinions on the Internet.

Joanna Schmölz, deputy director of DIVSI, underlines: "We have to ask ourselves what it says about the state of our democratic society when young people stop expressing their opinions for fear of insults and 'shitstorms' in the very room of exchange that is most important to them".

Compared to 2014, the fear of publishing embarrassing or intimate posts has also risen significantly (by 18 percentage points), as the fear of fake profiles, i.e. deception by fake user profiles (by 16 percentage points). 44 percent perceive fake profiles as one of the biggest personal risks on the net.

There is also widespread concern about being or becoming "addicted to the Internet". Younger people between the ages of 14 and 17 in particular see the problem as somewhat more acute (30 percent) than older people between the ages of 18 and 24 (26 percent). Almost one-third of young people and young adults therefore consider their own usage patterns to have been problematic. 64 percent feel they are wasting time on the Internet; 19 percent are even annoyed by the Internet.

The "Internet generation" feels inadequately prepared for a digital future. The acquisition of digital competences is mostly a matter of self-direction and among each other.

Young people and young adults are looking to a purely digital future with skepticism: 41 percent of young people between the ages of 14 and 24 are afraid that in the future much can only be done via the Internet. This figure has almost doubled since 2014. Almost half of those surveyed would like to see less online in the future.

Even if 14- to 24-year-olds seem to move safely and confidently online, their self-image is different: the older generations' idea that young people are digitally competent qua year of birth is firmly rejected by 14- to 24-year-olds. "From their point of view, being "Digital Native" is not a given, but in many cases requires knowledge and effort.

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